China Successfully Lands Unmanned Spacecraft on Far Side of Moon

Jun 3, 2024

The far side of the moon has long been portrayed in story and song as a mystery. But it may soon reveal some of its secrets, thanks to China’s Chang'e-6 spacecraft. It landed on the never-seen side early Sunday morning.   

Earth’s lone moon spins much like Earth. However, it does so at nearly the same rate that it orbits our planet. As a result, we only see the sphere’s front. The backside always faces outer space. It’s also much harder to access for terrestrial-based travelers. For the unmanned Chang’e-6 to land there "involve(d) many engineering innovations, high risks and great difficulty," the China National Space Administration said in a statement. 

The mission launched May 3. Chang’e-6 then orbited the moon for days. It was looking for the ideal spot and right flight path. Finally, it touched down in the moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin. Before settling, it hovered over the topography, using a laser 3D scanner to map out obstacles.  

Chang’e-6 will spend two days on the moon. It'll collect samples of soil and rocks before heading for home. If successful, its trip will have taken 53 days — and gathered mountains of new data for astronomers.  

"Everyone is very excited that we might get a look at these rocks no one has ever seen before," Professor John Pernet-Fisher, a specialist in lunar geology at the University of Manchester, told the BBC. "It would help us answer those really big questions, like how are planets formed, why do crusts form, what is the origin of water in the solar system?"

Chang’e-6’s feat marks only the second time a human-made craft has landed successfully on the moon’s far side. The first? China’s Chang’e-4 in 2019. 

Reflect: What do you think we can learn from exploring places in space that we have never seen before?

Photo of the Chang'e 6 lunar probe at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan province, from Reuters.

Based on the details in the story, which of the following details is false? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. Chang'e-6 successfully landed on the moon's far side.
b. The moon rotates at nearly the same rate that it orbits Earth.
c. Chang'e-6's mission took exactly 53 days.
d. Chang’e-6’s feat marks only the second time a human-made craft has ever landed successfully on the moon’s far side.
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